Dial Eme For Murder: How Prosecutors Teamed With Mexican Mafia In Death Penalty Case

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R. Scott Moxley
Prosecutor Wagner defending questionable DA moves in pending death penalty case

It's odd when both the Mexican Mafia and the Orange County district attorney's office (OCDA) want the same guy dead. It's remarkable when two assumed-enemy outfits work together to achieve a mutual goal. But that is what happened to Anthony R. Navarro Jr.

The Mexican Mafia (a.k.a. La Eme, the pronunciation of M en espaƱol) put Navarro on its "hard candy list," marking him for death. OCDA simultaneously worked to hand him capital punishment. In the process, a church-going prosecutor and an unsavory disciple of Eme bosses collaborated in a Santa Ana courtroom. As a result, Navarro today sits on San Quentin State Prison's death row.

The 48-year-old hoodlum admits he's no angel. At the age of 12, he became a gangster, two years later landing in the California Youth Authority for manslaughter. He inked his body with underworld tattoos, took the moniker "Droopy" and became a leader of the Pacoima Flats Gang in the San Fernando Valley. During a prison stint for robbery, the smooth-talking car enthusiast, small-time methamphetamine dealer and $19-per-hour Warner Bros. studio extra won prized Mexican Mafia associate status.


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Carolyn Torres is Helping Chicanos Unidos Fight Gang Injunctions in Santa Ana

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Photo by John Gilhooley
Torres: Back where she belongs

Whether in the classroom or the courtroom, Carolyn Torres sees her younger self in the causes she fights for. She teaches 10th and 11th graders in Watts during the day, but OC knows her best as an activist with Chicanos Unidos, a grassroots group waging a prominent battle against the Orange County district attorney's office (OCDA) over the Townsend Street gang injunction in Santa Ana.

The city has a special place in her heart. Poverty forced Torres to constantly move around OC and the Inland Empire, but Santa Ana is the only place that feels like home. "My deepest roots are here," she says. "My grandmother came to Santa Ana in the late 1920s from San Juan Capistrano when she was 4."


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Jury Deadlocks on Whether Gang Members Knowingly Shot at Anaheim Cops

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Covarrubias, Martinez and Sanchez

Time was when the Orange County District Attorney's office could trot cholos in front of a jury of mostly middle-aged gabachas, claim said cholos produced all sorts of crimes against cops, and win verdict after verdict. But we don't live in that Orange County anymore, Toto.

An Orange County jury returned surprising verdicts yesterday in the trial of three Anaheim gang members accused of trying to purposefully kill cops. Andrew Sanchez, Jordy Martinez and Juan Covarrubias were found not guilty of conspiring to commit murder and not convicted of attempted murder of police when they rolled up on officers in an unmarked Chevy Impala on June 1, 2012 and began firing.

The DA claimed that the three knew who they were shooting at that day; barrio gossip always maintained that the undercovers essentially entrapped them into the gunfight; defense lawyers merely maintained that Sanchez, Martinez, and Covarrubias were firing because they felt threatened. Amazingly, the jury sided more with the three than it did the po-po.


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Police Got False Confession From Cop-Killer Suspect--Then Destroyed Video When Sued

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Bob Aul/OC Weekly

Why would anyone sane--and, more important, innocent--confess to the potential death-penalty crime of participating in a murder-for-hire plot that left a California law-enforcement officer executed on the side of the 91 freeway in Anaheim? That question will likely be pondered inside Orange County's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse in March, when a dramatic police-brutality lawsuit is expected to go to trial.

The case stems from the Jan. 17, 1998, killing of 40-year-old Elizabeth Ann Begaren, an off-duty California State Prison guard. That night, she'd been a passenger in a vehicle driven by Nuzzio Begaren, her husband of six months, and his 10-year-old daughter from a prior relationship. Nuzzio told police he believed gangsters witnessed him hand a cash-stuffed envelope to his wife inside the Burbank Macy's, tailed them 33 miles down Interstate 5 to Anaheim, forced them off the 91, killed Elizabeth when they saw her badge, took $4,700 in cash and fled.

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Bruno the Police Dog Becomes Prosecution Star Witness During Alleged Anaheim Cop Killing Trial

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The trial of three gang members charged with attempted murder of Anaheim police in 2012 is winding down, but not before a little Brunomania entered the courtroom.

Bruno, you may or may not recall, was a police dog who gained celebrity status last year after being left severely injured by cholo gunfire and forced into early retirement. Bring up the German Shepherd, and immediate brownie points with women, children, and juries are sure to go your way--which is exactly why Senior Deputy District Attorney Gary LoGalbo called Bruno handler R.J. Young to the stand yesterday morning.

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Anaheim Gang Members On Trial for Shooting a Car Full of Cops. But Did They Know it was the Po-Po?

Categories: Where you from?

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Covarrubias, Martinez and Sanchez
A blue Chevy Impala with tinted windows drove slowly around a gang-claimed Anaheim neighborhood in the dark morning hours of June 1, 2012. Around 3:30 a.m., a black Toyota Corolla suddenly cornered the car. A brief standoff ensued before a passenger in the Corolla got out and started shooting. The violent encounter sounds like a typical gang shooting, however this time the people in the Impala were uniformed Anaheim police officers.

But did Anaheim Vatos Lokos (AVLS) gang members Juan Carlos Covarrubias, Jordy Roman Martinez, and Andrew Gomez Sanchez know it at the time? The question is central to charges against them for attempted murder of police officers. The jury trial began Monday in Judge Patrick H. Donahue's Superior Courtroom in Santa Ana and continued yesterday with witness testimony.

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The 10 Most Instagrammed Cities in Orange County

Categories: Where you from?

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Photo by Kristine Hoang
The coast...

Instagram is a place for selfies, Transformation Tuesdays, and porn (not excluding the food kind). With its culture of "likes" and "hashtags," it's also a fine place for popularity contests, which is why we're conducting one right now.

What are the most popular cities in Orange County, the ones with the most hashtags? And here we go...

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Judge Rules Injunction Permanent Against Santa Ana's Townsend Street Gang

Categories: Where you from?

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Santa Ana police aren't there to ask for extra sugar to borrow...

Family, friends and community activists washed cars Sunday in SanTana to raise funds for the funeral of Angel Arellano. The 17-year-old had been named in a temporary gang injunction against Townsend Street and police say he was slain by gunfire just inside its safety zone. Rosie Iraheta, Arellano's mother, continued to fight against the injunction appearing in Superior Court last Tuesday despite being weakened by terminal breast cancer.

While people washed the suds off cars and towel-dried them in the parking lot of Mexicanismo Night Club, Judge Franz E. Miller had already made the temporary gang injunction against Townsend Street permanent on Thursday--without anyone involved knowing about it.


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Mother of Slain Santa Ana Teen Continues Fight Against Townsend Street Gang Injunction

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Photo by...someone! I swear deputy sheriff, it wasn't me!
Iraheta pictured second from left
Rosie Iraheta arrived to Orange County Superior Court yesterday morning for the latest Townsend SanTana gang injunction hearing wearing a shirt with the image her late son Angel Arellano (no relation to our own Arellano). The 17-year-old was named in the injunction before police say he was gunned down just within its boundaries on Christmas Eve, a point Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas used to bolster the injunction's case in the press. He openly wondered that had the injunction and curfew been in effect for him, Arellano might still be alive today.

"I don't want my son's name to be used to push their agenda," Iraheta told the Weekly before the hearing. "I want my son to rest in peace. The gang injunction was imposed on him, not the person that killed him," she added. "I don't think it would have saved his life."

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How OC Law Enforcement Locked Up an Innocent 14-Year-Old Boy for Two Years

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Bob Aul/OC Weekly

Eyewitness statements can be notoriously unreliable, a fact Santa Ana Police Department (SAPD) detective Andy Alvarez knew when he investigated a 2009 attempted-murder case that happened near South Coast Plaza. He'd spent half of his then-14-year career as a California Highway Patrol officer, earned the rank of SAPD sergeant and served as a teacher at a Southern California police academy, as well as an "analytical thinking" instructor for Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) agency.

At the outset, at least, the vicious, attempted murder of three teenagers created the usual mystery for Alvarez: Who were the gun-toting assailants, and why had they committed the bloody crime? The victims--Brian Marin, Carlos Vega and Manuel Ventura--were next to a 1992 Acura Integra when a Jeep loaded with what they described as "Hispanics" approached. A man wearing a red, hooded sweat shirt emerged from the left rear passenger side and demanded to know their gang affiliation by asking, "Where you from?"

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